WASHINGTON -- Republican joy over a federal court approving congressional redistricting in Texas was diminished by an opening in the decision that could give U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor a chance to reverse it.
The Texas three-judge panel's warning of "excessive partisanship," Republican lawyers fear, will give O'Connor the opportunity to join with four liberal colleagues for another 5 to 4 decision against conservative interests. O'Connor, a former Republican leader of the Arizona Legislature who was President Ronald Reagan's first nominee for the high court, was the swing justice on recent 5 to 4 rulings supporting gay rights and campaign finance reform.
A Supreme Court reversal could cost the Republicans eight congressional seats in Texas and perhaps another six seats in Pennsylvania, whose redistricting also might be affected by the same Supreme Court decision.
HILLARY IN '08
A recent secret meeting of national Republican operatives agreed unanimously that first, if George W. Bush is re-elected for president, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2008, and second, she will be hard to beat.
The GOP insiders agreed that Clinton, during three years in the Senate, has surpassed expectations in competence and efficiency. While she occasionally goes over the line, they said, she holds herself in check most of the time.
Republican leaders would love for Clinton to be defeated for a second Senate term in 2006 and believe that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be the strongest possible challenger. However, Giuliani never has yearned to serve in the Senate and probably would prefer trying for governor of New York in 2006.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is coming under criticism by fellow Republicans by scheduling a cloture vote on the omnibus appropriations bill the afternoon of Jan. 20, the day lawmakers return from their long recess. That risky vote comes just a few hours before President Bush's State of the Union address that night.
Frist faces an uphill fight in the closely divided Senate to get the 60 (out of 100) votes needed for cloture. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Robert Byrd, senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, have come out against the bill. So has Republican Sen. John McCain. That raises the possibility of a humiliating setback for Bush just before he gives the nation his program for the year.
A footnote: If cloture is defeated on Jan. 20, it will be at least another week before the Senate tries again. Ten senators leave Washington Jan. 21 for the annual global conference in Davos, Switzerland. The deadline for new funding is Jan. 27.
National Democratic insiders privately say there was a 70 percent probability that freshman Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina would have been the Democratic nominee for vice president if he had not run for president.
According to this theory, Southerner Edwards would have been any nominee's first choice as running mate for purposes of geographical ticket balancing. His apparently failed campaign for president, however, has made him less attractive as vice president.
Edwards is now running no better than fourth in both Iowa Jan. 19 and New Hampshire Jan. 27, and may not stay in the race long enough to compete in his neighboring state of South Carolina Feb. 3. He has terminated his Senate career by not running for re-election this year in order to concentrate on his presidential campaign.